fiction favorites…Misty of Chincoteague

misty of chincoteague cover imageMisty of Chincoteauge, by Marguerite Henry, illustrated by Wesley Dennis

The air was wild with whinnies and snorts as the ponies touched the hard sand, then scrambled up the shore, their wet bodies gleaming in the sun. Paul half-carried the little colt up the steep bank; then suddenly it found its own legs.
Shouts between triumph and relief escaped every throat as the little filly tottered up the bank.  Almost to the top, her feet went scooting out from under her and she was down on the sand, her sides heaving.  Maureen felt a new stab of fear.
If only the big ponies would not crush her! That tender white body among all those thrashing hooves.  What chance had she? What chance with the wild wind for a mother?
But all the wildness seemed to have ebbed out of the Phantom. She picked her forefeet high. Then she carefully straddled her colt, and fenced in the small white body with her own slender legs.
For a brief second, Paul’s and Maureen’s eyes met above the crowds…Soon thechincoteague island ponies from usatoday Phantom and her colt would belong to them.  Never to be sold.

Paul and Maureen, brother and sister, live with their grandparents on Assateague Island, a long thin strip of land off the coast of Maryland and Virginia.  Tiny Chincoteague Island lies in its shelter, and is home to only a wild band of horses.  It has become tradition for the Assateague Islanders to round up those wild ponies every year, swim them across the channel, choose a few of the young ones to sell, and celebrate the whole event with a grand festival.

One pony has eluded the island men all these year — Phantom — a wild mare with a mystery about her that captivates the imagination of Paul and Marlene.  The two of them hatch a plan to earn enough money to buy her, and Paul joins the men for his first pony round-up, intent on bringing her in.  But when Paul finds her, he discovers that Phantom has a foal, a gorgeous little creature whose silvery coat flashes like mist in the sunlight.  Breathtaking.

Marguerite Henry and the real Misty

Marguerite Henry and the real Misty

How Paul manages to bring both the Phantom and her foal safely across the channel, how he and Maureen almost lose them to another buyer, how they discover that some creatures simply must remain wild and free, and how Misty comes to be their own — this is the classic story that unfolds in Marguerite Henry’s Newbery Honor book from 1947.  Based on the real pony round-ups of this region, the novel is packed with authentic, local detail, as well as great appeal for horse lovers, or any animal lover.  The independence and tough spirit of Paul, and to a lesser extent Maureen, create strong characters with whom readers experience a wide range of realistic emotions.

Wesley Dennis’ beautiful pencil drawings capture the wildness of the ponies as well as the cast of original characters from this unique region of America.  This has been a well-loved novel for generations of 8-12 year olds, from one of our finest authors.

Here’s the Amazon link:  Misty of Chincoteague